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How to get a visa for talented people and move to the USA

The O-1 visa is a real way for people with extraordinary ability to move to the United States. It has been suggested that getting it now, oddly enough, is much easier than other types of visas. It is she who is best suited for talented developers and teams of successful startups.

Photo: Shutterstock

O-1 gives you the right to formally work in the United States, bring your family with you and live in the country for the entire duration of the visa. And it can be from one to three years with the right to renew an unlimited number of times.

It is difficult to obtain an O-1 visa, it is expensive, but if you do not have a wife or husband in the United States and you are not ready to invest $ 1 million in the country's economy with the creation of at least 10 jobs, then this is hardly the only way to legally move to USA, says Founder resource Immigrant.Today Alex Pavlenko.

Judge for yourself. The probability of winning a green card is less than 1%, and only a third of applicants receive an H-1B work visa. The United States issues only 65 such visas per year, and more than 000 applicants. Obtaining O-200 does not provide for quotas or lotteries, and a correctly submitted application, subject to a successful interview, is highly likely to be satisfied. The visa is issued for three years with the possibility of extension an unlimited number of times, if the recipient has not changed the scope of activity.

This visa has several more advantages: you can apply at any time, and you do not need to have a higher education and contacts with an American company (ordinary US citizens can act as the inviting party, and not just a legal entity).

Finally, O-1 provides the opportunity to apply for O-3 visas for family members so that they can travel with you to the United States. However, this type of visa does not give the right to work.

Disadvantages of O-1

Applying for a visa is an expensive pleasure. For a positive result, you must pay at least $ 7000:

  • $ 325 - for consideration of the petition;
  • $ 160 - for inserting a visa at the US Embassy;
  • $ 1250 - for a premium process that provides an application review within 14 days instead of three months;
  • $ 5000-8000 - for the services of lawyers in the United States, which will help to apply.

In addition, obtaining O-1 is a long and laborious process. Each document must be checked by lawyers, then it must be translated and certified. “The most difficult thing in obtaining an O-1 visa is to collect documents. The whole process took me about a year. You prepare one piece of paper, send it to the organization you need, they consider it and agree to sign it. Then you send the resulting document to lawyers, they point out the points that need to be corrected, and you send it on a new one, ”says Peter Omelchenko, a leading musician at Washington Balalaika Society Orchestra, who received a visa in the summer of 2017.

In the case of the musician, there were about 300 pages - and for an application for O-1 this is not the largest volume. For example, the journalist Anna Morozova, who left for the United States last year, had two huge folders — about 600 pages.

After several months of preparing the documents and waiting until they are considered, you will still have to stand in line for an interview at the embassy. Waiting for the appointed date can also last for a month or more.

Who emigrates O-1

At first glance, the requirements for O-1 candidates are very strict. The description is confusing, which states that holders of an honorable international award, such as an Oscar, Pulitzer or Nobel Prize, can apply for a visa. However, in reality, the criteria are much broader, and many more people fall under them than it might seem at first glance.

Among the Ukrainians who moved to the United States on O-1 are artists, musicians, dancers, as well as numerous programmers and designers. Some lawyers specializing in preparing documents have met O-1 even for accountants and urologists. Such visas are obtained by well-known people in wide circles. For example, Pavel Grozyan, a Ukrainian designer and CEO of Jerrycan startup applications, and other founders of successful Ukrainian startups received O-1.

Alexandra Rogacheva, co-founder of the CEO of inkHunter, which created an app for trying on tattoos using augmented reality technology, says: “Our team came to the States in the summer of 2016 for the ERA acceleration program in New York. At first we did not think about staying in the United States, but during the program it became obvious that there is much more room for growth here, and it would be great to be able to stay in the States for as long as we want, at least for the CEO. In my case, the O-1 visa was the most reliable and optimal way. "

General requirements

If a candidate for O-1 does not have a Nobel Prize, he must meet at least three of the following points.

  • Have national or international prizes or awards for outstanding professional accomplishments.
  • Be a member of a professional community or association that requires selection to join. They should only accept members with outstanding achievements, and the decision on admission should be made by national or international experts.
  • There should be publications about you or your results in professional or well-known media.
  • At competitions, contests or other events held in the field of your professional activity, you need to play the role of a judge or invited expert.
  • The results of your work should be of great importance for the scientific, artistic, sports field or business.
  • You need to publish scientific articles on professional topics in high-profile and well-known media - both general and highly specialized.
  • It is important to be one of the key employees for your current Ukrainian employer: the results of your work should be visible and significant, and the company itself should be large and well-known.
  • The salary at home must be high and you need confirmation that in the United States you will also have a high level of income.

Although coincidence on the three criteria is sufficient, in practice, lawyers often insure and collect evidence on more points. “In case the emigration service doubts any of the requirements, lawyers suggested collecting documents confirming four criteria, rather than three, as stated in the conditions,” says Peter Omelchenko.

“I was preparing a petition with the visa lawyer, and we did not rely on certain three criteria, but decided that the more evidence we give on each of the points, the better. The visa officer himself will choose what is appropriate and what is not, and if necessary, send a request for additional evidence (Request For Evidence), ”explains Rogacheva.

O-1 and IT

In the application for O-1 developers have their own subtleties. For example, according to the experience of a Russian designer who moved to the United States in 2014, international awards can be considered as getting the applications that he developed into collections in the App Store or Google Play. Publications can be not only in print, but also in quite accessible online editions. And having an account on Dribbble or Scoutzie can be considered membership of a professional association, because you can get there only by the invitation of other professionals.

It is important to collect a lot of letters of recommendation - you need original, detailed and serious letters on several pages.

Developers, like representatives of other professions, need to submit a Job Offer from an American company or an already signed contract. The more significant the employer's reputation in the market, the higher the chances of obtaining a visa. As already mentioned, an individual can also be an employer.

CEOs and other members of the startup team have a different specifics - they can submit a petition on behalf of their own company. "This complicates the preparation of the petition a little, but it allows you to hire a person as a US resident in your company and start paying the employee's salary taxes directly," explains Rogacheva. If an entrepreneur applied from some foreign company, he would not have the legal right to work in his company without reworking his visa. Of course, you first need to open a company in the United States.

According to Alexandra, the following points were included in her petition:

  • Publications about inkHunter and personally about it, including in foreign editions - TechCrunch, Mashable, TheFastCompany, TheDailyDot, HighSnobiety, DailyMail,, and HuffingtonPost.
  • Investments of the New York accelerator ERA, which invest in 0,5-1% willing, as well as from the American VC fund Kayon Partners.
  • Expert support - 6 emails from experienced investors, entrepreneurs, and Computer Vision and Machine Learning technicians.
  • The popularity of the product - the inkHunter application has been used by more than 6 million people; it has received several awards at international design and innovation contests.
  • Public presentations by Alexandra Rogacheva at conferences, participation in panel discussions on the topics of augmented reality and about women entrepreneurs.
  • Significant role in the company and high salary - CEOs also have a significant share in it, which can be interpreted as a high salary by multiplying the share (equity) by the company's valuation.

For the O-1 application, venture capital investments in a startup are also very important - they act as additional merits that are not included in the main list, but can serve as proof of the extraordinary qualities of the applicant.

Instructions for obtaining a visa O-1 on US Immigration Service website. But let's look at all the stages in detail.

Stage one: find out which of the subspecies of the visa suits you and find a sponsor

У type O visa there are several options:

O-1A - for people with unique abilities and achievements in science, education, business and sport;

O-1B - for people with unique abilities in art, film and television;

O-2 - assistant applicants for the first 2 visa subspecies;

O-3 - Spouses and children of O-1 or O-2 visa holders.

The novel came under the category of O-1B, and his wife filed documents for O-2, since she assisted him in his work in Russia.

But a businessman from Ukraine Oleg Roginsky fell under the category of O-1A, when he successfully created his startup and sold it later to an American company for $ 10 million.

At that time he lived in Canada, but he planned to return to work in the States, so the O-1 visa became the simplest option for a young businessman.

“I was sponsored by the company to which I sold my startup (Roginsky later joined its board of directors. - Note. ForumDaily). It just happened at the time of the sale of the company and became one of my conditions, ”says Oleg.

It is the sponsor company that fills in I-129 form or a petition to a foreign worker who does not claim immigrant status. This document must be completed no earlier than a year, and at least 45 days before the actual date of commencement of work for a visa applicant.

It is important to understand that the holder of an O-1 visa is tied to his employer and upon arrival in the United States simply cannot start working for another company.

If the employer, for example, fires a person or he leaves himself, then such a person loses his status. It is also difficult to change jobs. The holder of such a visa, working for one employer, must find another who will file a new petition before the holder of the O-1 visa leaves the previous position. It is necessary that there are no gaps between statuses.

At the same time, sponsorship of the O-1 visa differs significantly from the sponsorship of the H1B work visa. “For H1B, the company must prove that you are necessary and that no one in America can take your place at all, that is, there are no employees like you in the United States. And the O-1 principle is completely different: the visa itself already implies that you are unique, and the company does not need to prove anything. They already know that you are cool and they want you, ”explains Oleg Roginsky.

In addition, there is also a lottery for the H1B visa. Since there are always more applicants than such visas, the competition can be 1 to 10. “Imagine that the sponsoring company has to pay $ 5, endure six months of paperwork, and as a result, it’s not a fact that the employee will be allowed to enter the United States,” continues Oleg.

There are no quotas for the O-1 visa. And the money risk is very small. In fact, all that is required from the sponsor is to provide you with a return ticket home if you quit and cannot find another employer.

Stage two: prove you are talented

For visa O-1A and O-1В your set of criteria. You need to match at least three:

  • Availability of documents confirming the receipt of national or international awards;
  • Certificate of membership in a professional association;
  • Authorship of printed materials published in professional or industry publications;
  • Mention of a candidate’s work in professional or well-known media;
  • Confirmation of the participation of the applicant for a visa in the jury or personal judging in assessing the work of other people in his field;
  • The candidate has 5 or 6 letters from well-known colleagues who can confirm a special scientific or pedagogical contribution;
  • The candidate can document that he was hired because he has a critical competence or necessary for the successful completion of the job in the field of his activity;
  • There is evidence that he had or will have a high level of remuneration.

Oleg Roginsky began preparations for applying for a visa with the consultation of a lawyer. “I knew a law office in Montreal - I worked with them on other migration issues. I came to them for a consultation, they looked at all types of visas that I can get, said that having sold a company in the United States, I, in principle, qualify for an O-1 visa, ”the businessman says.

In addition, he had publications in the national media of the USA and Ukraine, he won an international prize in the competition for the strongest marketing company.

“Another point that I approached was“ an impressive contribution to business or science. ” We have demonstrated what exactly my company has changed in terms of business. We showed that we made the analysis of tonality democratic, and it became accessible even to students, ”explains Oleg.

Stage Three: Wait for Visa Approval

Usually on the O-1 visa there are no failures. A package of documents can simply be returned for revision. From the moment of submission Oleg waited for the answer of 2 of the week, Roman - a month. Both got a visa right away on 3 of the year.

Then it can be extended for a year. Such an application must be submitted before the expiration of the visa and provide proof that you continue to work for your sponsor.

With such documents, you can later try to apply for the green card for individuals with extraordinary abilities. This is exactly what Oleg did. "I added 2 more criteria out of those 8 and got a green card."

The O-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa and the green card is an immigration visa. And if the latter is not approved, the person leaves, but after some time wants to come back to the United States on a nonimmigrant visa, he may no longer be allowed.

Read also on ForumDaily:

Personal experience: how to move to the United States on a visa for talented people

Getting a green card: step by step instructions

Three clever, but legal ways to get to the US

How to get a work permit in the US

Miscellanea US visa Educational program visa for talented
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